Cod Poached in Court Bouillon

Saffron-hued potatoes are traditionally served in Provence with this court bouillon poached cod. You can make them at the same time in a separate pot in salted water (just add a pinch of saffron to the water), or you can make them in the water you used to poach the fish, while the fish rests, covered. The potatoes cook quickly (about 15 minutes for Yukon Golds or waxy potatoes). If you cook the potatoes in the poaching liquid, the fish will still be warm when the potatoes are done, but not hot. Cod prepared this way is often served slightly warm.

As always with fish or seafood, pick the freshest possible at the market. The fish's flesh should glisten, it should not look tired or dry. It should have a fresh, not a fishy, smell.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.


Poached cod:

  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds cod fillets (or other firm white fish, not sole), cut to fit the pan
  • Lemon for garnish

Optional side of saffron potatoes:

  • 1 pound of Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks (peel on or off, your choice)
  • Salt
  • Pinch of saffron


1 Make the court bouillon: Put water, salt, garlic, bay leaves, and olive oil into  4 to 5 quart pot and bring to a hard boil. Boil for several minutes, to infuse the water with the bay leaves and garlic. You should be able to smell the aroma of the garlic.

simmer court bouillon

2 Simmer the cod: Rinse the cod fillets and place them in the boiling water. Return the water to a simmer (this should take 2 to 3 minutes). Simmer for an additional 2 minutes, less or more depending on the thickness of the fillets.

simmer cod in court bouillon

3 Remove cod, cover, and let rest: Using a slotted spoon, remove the fillets to a plate when they are almost cooked through. They should still be a little translucent in the center, because they will continue to cook in their residual heat as they sit on the plate.

Cover with foil. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving, or if you are making the optional potatoes, let rest until the potatoes are done.

4 Cook potatoes (optional): Place a pinch of saffron in the water that was used to cook the fish. Add the potatoes and return the water to a simmer.

Simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Drain. Sprinkle potatoes with additional salt if desired.

Serve fish with a slice of lemon.

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  • Karen

    This was really delicious and very simple. Really did not think it would be so lovely! Thanks!


  • Hali Nothstein

    Excellent simple and wonderful!


  • Lee Thayer

    Hi Elise, I made this last night, 6 Feb for my wife and I, absolutely brilliant, yet simple recipe. I used shark catfish, which is a whitefish taste, not at all like catfish, spot on perfect. Thanks you for a great recipe.


  • Sarah

    Made this for the first time a few months ago, and hubby (a steak and fried foods man) now asks for it once a week. Super easy to make any night of the week, delicious, light but filling – a perfect meal.

  • Alex

    This is my go-to weekday meal when I don’t feel up to anything elaborate. I cook for one and halve this. Steamed veggies or a salad on the side for some green and this is a delicious, quick meal I can feel good about having instead of takeout.

  • Terry R.

    So simple and elegant. I can’t wait to try it. I have done salmon in Court Bouillion but never tried cod this way. Thanks, Elise!

  • Rivka

    Hi Elise, love your recipes! Do you think this recipe would work with Tilapia? I am not a fan of cod.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Rivka, I think tilapia might be too delicate, but it’s worth a try!

      • Petra

        I cooked tilapia and it was delicious! Thank you :)

  • Anita

    What would you recommend as a variation for those not too fond of bay leaves? Thanks!

  • Padaek

    Fancy salted water – love how you simply/clarify dishes, and make them look so delicious and healthy. I was wondering if it would be wise to cook the potatoes at the same time as the fish, removing the fish earlier when it is done? Thank you.

    • Dawn

      Not sure I would put the potatoes in with the fish – it would risk starch depositing on the fish surface. Not very appealing when the dish is so simple. Fine if it was a casserole or fish stew, but poaching? I don’t think it would be optimal.

      If you are worried about the fish cooling, you could always put it on a plate on top of the potatoes for the last 5 mins and cover with foil while the veggies finish cooking.